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Senate Agrees to Delay Digital Transition; Vote Expected Next Week

Jan 22, 2009  •  Post A Comment

A bipartisan agreement to delay the country’s digital TV changeover from Feb. 17 to June 12 was announced Thursday night by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.
TVWeek Poll: DTV Delay – Pro or Con?
Sen. Rockefeller said a Senate vote on the legislation likely would take place next week.
Sen. Rockefeller had earlier proposed a similar delay, only to see an attempt by the Senate to short-circuit normal procedures and quickly pass the legislation run into GOP objections.
The new version allows TV stations to switch from an analog to a digital signal early without penalty and allows the government to issue more discount coupons for converter boxes that deliver digital signals to analog sets.
It has the support of the ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.
The legislation also gives the Federal Communications Commission some additional authority to auction off new spectrum to help pay for the delay.
In a statement inserted into the Congressional Record Thursday night, Sen. Rockefeller said delaying the changeover was the only reasonable choice Congress had because of the failure of the Bush administration to adequately prepare for the transition.
“The way I see it, right now we have a choice. We can do the DTV transition right or we can do it wrong. Doing it right would mean that as many as 21 million households across this country do not lose access to news, information and emergency alerts,” he said.
“Doing it right would mean that every consumer who relies on over the-air television is aware of the steps they need to take to ensure continued reception and receive the assistance they need to prepare for the transition in their home. And doing it right means that no one across this land wakes up on Feb. 18 to find that their television set has gone dark,” he added.
He said the “shameful truth” is the government is not poised right now to do the changeover “right.”
“We are only weeks away from doing it dreadfully wrong—and leaving consumers with the consequences,” he said. “It is no secret that the outgoing administration grossly mismanaged the digital television transition.”
A delay in the changeover was urged by Consumers Union and then by the Obama transition team. They pointed to a government coupon program for DTV converter boxes that ran out of money and concerns that resources weren’t in place to help confused consumers.
Republicans had opposed the delay, instead urging the coupon problems simply be fixed.
If the switch wins Senate and House approval, the FCC and broadcasters face the formidable task of re-educating consumers. Millions of dollars worth of public service ads have been airing telling consumers the switchover would happen at midnight Feb. 17.

139 Comments

  1. I say, “On with it, already!!!” Why? Here in America, even the poorest people have TVs. (Either passed on to them by someone they know, or purchased cheaply at a garage sale.) So, what is $60 for a converter box? Coupon or not, it still beats cable or a new TV. Anyone who wants badly enough to continue watching TV will do so by any means possible.

  2. What a bunch of political idiots.

  3. Worst Idea Ever.
    You know what’s supposed to happen to that spectrum that broadcasters are vacating?
    It’s supposed to go to public safety. Police, fire fighters, EMS, public works, transportation, etc.
    You know, the PEOPLE WHO KEEP US SAFE.
    I’d rather that a few million people are without TV for a short period of time than have a firefighter running into a burning building without a decent radio.

  4. This week I made an eBay purchase of the highly rated Insignia Model NS-DXA1-APT converter for $36. No coupon needed. Lack of available funds in the government coupon program is just another political Red Herring. Procrastinators will take responsibility for necessary personal action only when no other choice is available.
    Satire On DTV Transition Delay

  5. Click DJ to view blog entry “Satire On DTV Transistion Delay”.
    Thanks.

  6. If this bill still allows broadcasters to make the switch as planned on 2/17, how many do you think will still be “lit up” on analog, come 2/18?
    The electric bills for two transmitters are really hammering stations big and small. Most of ’em are ready to pull the switch on 2/17 and see no reason to delay things any further.
    The economic downturn isn’t helping, Stations are looking to save money wherever they can.
    Like it or not, those viewers who ignored all the PSAs and news stories are likely to wake up on 2/18 and find static on their TVs, regardless of what Senator Rockefeller does (and what the House does).
    It’s time to move on.

  7. The country is ready for this. Just another excuse to blame Bush again. WE, the voters are ultimately to blame for these clowns in Washington. Wake up, USA!

  8. Anybody want to guess when the original turn-on date was????…….
    May 1st, 1999.
    Just to show you how efficient government run programs are.
    original FCC release.
    http://www.fcc.gov/Speeches/Kennard/Statements/stwek926.html

  9. February 17th is a Tuesday, so this change date is midweek when people are around to help. June 12th is a Friday – right before a weekend. Is this part of some weird stimulus plan to push more overtime into the economy?

  10. Delay, delay, delay. ENOUGH! I hope most analog stations pull the plug come the 17th!

  11. Congress wanted the switch much earlier and blamed the TV stations for the delay to 2009. Now Congress says it is Bush’s fault? There is no one in Washington worth keeping. Time for a new tea party!

  12. Pull the switch already, don’t penalize 94.3% of America that did’nt procrastinate.

  13. Why is it the government’s responsibility to pay for people’s television equipment. If they want to watch, pay for it. I shouldn’t have to foot the bill. I have two hi-def TV’s–purchased with money earned by the sweat of my brow more than a year ago. I’m ready. Those who aren’t could always read.

  14. All of you rich industry douchebags should have to man the phones when old people living on social security who have nothing else to do but watch TV all day every day call in to say that their TVs are broken.
    Then, you should be the ones to go out and climb up on the roofs of their houses to futz with their antennas when it turns out that they can’t get a signal, even with the digital converter boxes they went without fresh produce for months to pay for.

  15. To U.R.T.
    You hit it exactly on the head! Those who are so stupid that they purchase entertainment equipment before food are hopeless. Their priorities are completely out of whack, they will always be a burden on society, and they cannot be helped.
    Humans somehow survived and thrived just fine without television, up until the past 60 years or so.
    Cry me a river, you bleeding heart freak.

  16. Maybe this would teach the procrastinators a lesson! It’s TV for goodness sakes. No one is going to get hurt if they miss freakin’ American Idol! Really doesn’t Washington have better things to worry about? Oh yeah, they just enjoy wasting tax dollars… I almost forgot!

  17. Hey Notsofast:
    Actually, hadn’t thought of it that way. Good point. TV stuff before food is just crazy. I’ve been ready for months without any issues. I guess they should be as well.
    Another bunch of Dems with their hands out waiting on the government to deal with it. I tend to get riled up about it.

  18. Make the switch on schedule and I will Volunteer to help the people that can’t help themselfs.
    Where’s the sign up list!

  19. Is anyone thinking about the technicians working outdside in possibly hazardous winter conditions to upgrade equipment?
    Some stations transitioned before Christmas because of the difficulty of doing antenna work in the winter.

  20. Most of the comments here are from people that only care whats best for them,what about the poor elderly person who is on a fixed income,who lives in wisconsin and needs antenna put on their house in 12″ of snow and -20 below. oh maybe she can some idiot to do it.I guess mikey will help her

  21. WOW! It’s really bad that the government didn’t give people ANY warning about this transition. FOUR YEARS just isn’t ENOUGH time. No matter HOW long you give people, some will NEVER be really. Just do the transition and deal with it slackers. Both my parents (74) and in laws (77) are ready,

  22. My primary TV has been ready for months now, and I like to watch the digital channels. But I am SO GLAD that the switch “might” get delayed. 13 years ago I built a Heathkit Color Television from individual parts (which had been in storage for 18 years when I found it) that has yet to finally work. So now I’m the procrastinator who didn’t finish it fully and get it up and running before the impending deadline. I might finish more easily by June than by next month. Yes, I know that a converter box will work on it, so why hurry?, but its tuning circuitry is awesome being push-button (high tech for the 70s) which will soon be totally obsolete…. :(

  23. Due to weather concerns, the transition date should have been in the Spring. But changing the transition date NOW is a stupid idea that will cause confusion and cost millions.
    Mark Twain was right, “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”

  24. Do you realize the energy that the U.S. is wasting by broadcasting in analog? If Obama cared about the environment, he would have sent out an executive order to turn off the analog a week ago. So much for being green!

  25. Rockefeller and the rest of Congress are the cau
    se of the problem. First they underfunded the program for they counted 17million households (the GAO estimate was 21.6 million). Typical of Congress so they can come back for more money later. The initial funding was $990million via the Deficite Reduction Act of 2005 (what a heck of a place to have an authorization for dtv conversion but typical congressional doings). The funding was for two converters per household. Again, Congress being being generous with the money of others. The program ran out of money at 1.34 billion and the Democrats are going to add another $650 as part of the “Economic Stimulas” bill.
    One reason given to delay is public safety, which is a crock. When Hurricane Ike came through Houston, I used ……A Radio.
    The Bush administration issued 47 million coupons, but 14,300,000 WERE NEVER USED by those who received them. Also over 6 million requests were made within the last 30 days. Waiting until the last minute.
    http:/DigitalTvConverterBox\TV Converter Box Coupon Program Website – Program Statistics has all of the above data

  26. The converter program failed in many areas, first a large number of people were not able to take advantage of the coupons because local stores did not have boxes available on a consistent basis, second, many were not aware that there was an expiration date on the coupon. A expiration date of Feb, 17th 2009 would have made mores sense.
    As to the weather, issues and upgrading antennas, I work everyday in the cold bitter conditions in Michigan. I came out of retirement to focus on antenna repairs, upgrades and new installs with my 19 year old son. The problem is there are very few people in my area still doing this type of work. Most rooftop installers are focusing on Dish & DirecTV installs, pay as you go service. My greatest cost of business is marketing and advertising the fact that I do rooftop work in any conditions—never any earned media from the local broadcasters, no list posted by the government of quality companies to do antenna and converter box installs. Most MAB & NAB ads were negligent in letting people know that digital signals have been available for the last year—no clear message Every day I install converters and people are under the assumption that there would be no digital signals until Feb 17th–yet amazed at how good digital is!
    What is the plan when the analog signal is shut off and millions will need to rescan their TVS and boxes because most Digital signals will move? I am not looking forward to that day, most of my customers are still struggling with 2 remotes, tv needs to remain on 3 or 4, and how to make the video fit the screen!!!
    MLH

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